Aug. 31 2016 06:00 AM

Passion is the main driver that shines through all the hard work and stress dairy farming can bring.

Today's dairy farmers don't fit into one mold; they come in all shapes and ages, with varying levels of experience and differences in management style. One characteristic that all dairy farmers possess, however, is passion - a passion for the work they do.

Wisconsin dairy farmer Joseph Giemza put his thoughts to paper in the article titled "I am a proud dairy farmer," which appeared in our August 25, 2016, issue of Hoard's Dairyman. Apparently his feelings struck a chord with many readers, as we have received numerous requests for reprints of this article.

Giemza states the fact that there are fewer dairy farmers today than there was at the turn of the century.

He talks about the struggles farmers face in terms of no control over price, no overtime pay, no benefits, and no retirement.

He recognizes a lack of appreciation farmers receive from society.

But the message under it all is that Giemza is proud to be a dairy farmer. He is proud to care for the land and animals, proud to feed the American people, and proud to produce a healthy, wholesome product. He says, "It's my job, my life, my career, my passion, my home - all rolled into one."

How many of you agree with that statement? We know many of you feel the same passion we do when it comes to carrying on the tradition of dairying.

Giemza's article is posted below. You can also find a printable, sharable PDF version here.

I am a proud dairy farmer

by Joseph Giemza, dairy farmer in Arcadia, Wis.

I AM a dairy farmer. That's all I've ever been. There once were a lot of folks who could say that. As of March, there are 9,600 of us in Wisconsin. In Trempealeau County only 160 are still milking. Wow! In March 1999, the numbers indicated there were 22,000 in the state and 420 in my northwestern Wisconsin county. Do you see where this trend is going?

You'd think someone would build a fence around us and charge admission to view us in our natural habitat or Congress would put an endangered species protection act on us.

Yes, I am a dairy farmer. It's my job, my life, my career, my religion, my passion, my home - all rolled into one. Most people are too busy to get to the basics of life, too busy trying to get rich quick. I get to deal with the basics of life every single day: birth, death, soil, sun, growth, mud, storms, calm, parched, wet, and, above all, stress.

I am proud to be a dairy farmer. No one could be prouder of their career than I am of mine. My contribution to society is very simple, yet it's as grand as that of anyone who graduated from an elite liberal arts college.

I tend a herd of dairy cows that produce what evolution has chosen as the most naturally nutritious food for the most developed animals in the food chain - people. Evolution took thousands of years of trial and error, millions of genetic events to decide that milk is it. Its nutritional value puts milk above coffee, energy drinks, beer, or soda. Milk it is!

Milk doesn't cause fatal car crashes or domestic violence. You don't need an identification card to purchase it any time of the day or night. It won't stain your clothes if spilled. Consider all the great products that are made from milk, whether they are hot, cold, cultured, or frozen. I couldn't begin to count them all.

Today, the American farmer feeds 144 people every day. Fifty years ago, each farmer fed 22 people. We've come a long way. The American farmer is expected to feed, fuel, and clothe the world, take all the risk with no guarantee of receiving fair compensation for their hard work.

One hundred percent of the people on this planet eat food. Where do they think this food comes from?

Not from a store, it's from a farm. Yet, the farmer is the least appreciated person on earth. Not many people become famous for milking cows, but a lot of famous people couldn't do what we farmers do. Professional athletes make tens of millions of dollars per year and contribute little to society.

The world population is growing. Where is their food going to come from when more farmers are getting out? The average age of the American farmer today is the oldest in this country's history.

Dairy farmers work extremely hard just to survive. What industry works for less than minimum wage, puts in hours well beyond the traditional eight-hour work day, seven days a week, with no overtime pay, no benefits of any kind, and no retirement fund? How many?

Farmers have no control on the price we receive for our products; we have to take what the processor gives us. Is that fair?

cowWe do it because we have passion for the land and what we do.

Abby blog footer
The author is an associate editor and covers animal health, dairy housing and equipment, and nutrient management. She grew up on a dairy farm near Plymouth, Wis., and previously served as a University of Wisconsin agricultural extension agent. She received a master's degree from North Carolina State University and a bachelor's from University of Wisconsin-Madison.